Beer for a cause
BENNINGTON — Two months ago, a wildfire determined to be the deadliest and most destructive in California history devastated a town called Paradise in the Sierra Nevada foothills.
While the Camp Fire ravaged through much of Butte County, California, at one time burning the equivalent of a football field-sized swath of land every 30 seconds, it left the Chico facility of the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company — roughly 15 miles from Paradise — untouched. Unfortunately, by the time it was fully contained in late November, it had taken nearly 13,000 homes, 154,000 acres, and 86 lives with it.
Four days after the wildfire began, the brewing company's CEO Ken Grossman devised a plan to help those affected by the devastation: a beer brewed specifically to raise money for fire victims.
Nearly 3,000 miles away on the other side of the country, Madison Brewing Company is joining approximately 1,400 breweries nationwide in crafting a West Coast IPA in which 100 percent of the proceeds will be donated to fire relief efforts. This beer is called "Resistance IPA" and is expected to be released in Bennington Friday, Jan. 11.
In the beginning, Sierra Nevada reached out to friends in the industry to spread the word. Madison Brewing Co. owners Mel and Mike Madison passed on the information to brewery manager William Gardner, who immediately began researching. Gardner spoke of the ease of signing up to participate, noting that Sierra Nevada not only provided the recipe, but also an Excel spreadsheet for calculating the formula.
"It was so well-organized," Gardner said.
"At the end of the day, all it cost to be able to help...is literally some of our CO2, a little bit of utility, and our time," said head brewer Ross Richards. "Because so many people are putting in so many pieces of this, it's pretty cool."
Every batch of Resilience across the country is a West Coast IPA made following Sierra Nevada's recipe. Country Malt donated malt to breweries interested in making a batch of Resilience, and some other Northwestern suppliers donated grain.
"A lot of suppliers ended up helping out," Richards said.
Because of Madison's brewing schedule, they are one of the later breweries to participate.
"[Sierra Nevada] wanted all breweries to have this brewed by January first," Gardner said.
Madison brewed the beer on Christmas Eve. The 1,200 pint batch will be available in draft form only, selling for $6 a pint. Gardner says only selling in draft form rather than cans allows the profit margin to be higher, thus allowing more money to be raised for the cause. He also expects the batch to sell out in "about a month."
Most breweries released their version of the beer in November or December, with a few slated to release this month.
"You're really supporting us by coming in, and you're supporting [the cause] by ordering this beer," Gardner said.
At 6.7 percent alcohol. Resilience IPA is a "pretty traditional" West Coast IPA with ingredients sourced from the Northwest, Gardner said. While some breweries opted to put their own spin on Resilience, Madison's brewers decided to stick to Sierra Nevada's recipe as closely as possible.
"This is a Sierra Nevada beer," Richards said. "It should come out tasting like a Sierra Nevada beer."
Brewing a West Coast IPA is a bit of an out-of-the-box endeavor for Gardner and Richards, but they are excited for its debut.
"We don't have a real West Coast IPA; we have a lot of northeast-style IPAs," Gardner said. "I would say our F-Bomb [Imperial IPA] is close to this."
"It's nice for us to be able to do this for the donation side, as well as offer a West-Coast style IPA in our lineup," Richards said.
Gardner noted that two Massachusetts breweries, Wormtown and Wachusett, recently partnered to launch a brew to honor fallen Worcester firefighter Christopher Roy. One hundred percent of the funds from this beer are donated to the Ava Roy Fund to support Roy's nine year-old daughter.
"I think this is probably going to become a trend, which is awesome," Gardner said.
"Craft breweries are always looking to give back to the community," Richards added.
It's easy to give a donation check, Gardner said, but more money can be raised through this nationwide effort especially since word has spread. On social media, people have already shown their excitement to purchase the beer when it's released.
"We can tell the story," Gardner said. "Which is so much more valuable than just a cash donation."
Christie Wisniewski can be reached at email@example.com and at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.
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